On Oct. 13, 2014 we were on the red carpet for a special New York screening of “John Wick,” which tells the story of an ex-hitman who comes out of retirement to track down the gangsters that took everything from him. With New York City as his bullet-riddled playground, “John Wick” is a fresh and stylized take on the assassin genre.
The premiere was held at Regal Union Square and was presented by Carl F. Bucherer. Notables from the film who we spotted on the red carpet included producer Basil Iwanyk, directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, Keanu Reeves, Bridget Moynahan, Alfie Allen, John Leguizamo and Willem Dafoe. Read our exclusive interviews below:
What about this project drew you to work on it?
I really liked the character John Wick. The character’s grieving. You know, he ends up losing his wife, the love of his life – the reason he stopped being an assassin. I like his will and his determination. In terms of the world of John Wick, I love that there was this real world, and then there was this underworld inhabited by Ian McShane and Willem Dafoe. It kind of takes you on this journey. That’s what made it feel really different for me. And the writing. There’s a lot of great action, but there’s a soul to it and fun. Like, it’s funny. There’s some funny stuff going on.
You character does a lot of fighting and a lot of killing. Did you ever find it tough to keep and tap into that humanity? Because there’s a lot of sensitivity and subtlety to your performance, was it ever tough to make him not just a killing machine?
Yeah, I mean I feel like I always connected to his grief. And there’s something like anger, but it was really like a struggle to reclaim what was taken from him. He goes back to this sort of dark-side assassin, because that’s the way he can do it, you know? And so for me, it was just like a shark. It wasn’t personal. It was never. And these people keep getting in my way! They want to kill me, but I’m just trying to get through to this guy.
How was it working under Chad and Dave as them being directors as opposed to them being stunt people?
Yeah. I’ve known them for a long time. And watching their career from stunt men to action design. You know, doing second unit … films like “The Hunger Games,” “300,” “The Expendables,” “Sucker Punch,” a lot of Jason Statham movies. And them wanting to tell a story. I’ve just watched them develop as filmmakers, so for me they didn’t feel like first-time directors, or just action directors. The story was so important to them, and they had such a vision for the film. You know, you saw it. The colors of it, they way everything is depicted, the humor, the action, it just felt fresh. They had a real handle on that.
David Leitch and Chad Stahelski directed the film.
What was your favorite scene to shoot in the film?
David: I like the home assault.
Chad: I gotta go with you. I gotta go with that, too.
David: The first time Keanu’s character turns into John Wick and they attack him at his home.
Chad: Yeah, it’s the first time we see John flip into character, and it’s the first action piece in the movie. And, also, it’s the first thing we actually shot on location, our first action vignette. So it’s kind of cool to sit at the monitors and watch Keanu Reeves do his thing and go, “Wow, we’re directing a Keanu Reeves action movie.” It’s cool.
A lot of people know you from “Game of Thrones.” What are some of the major differences between shooting for TV versus film? Like, what are the challenges of each, and what do you like about both?
Well, I think with film, you tend to be on location for a longer period of time. And with “Game of Thrones,” it’s shot in quite a sporadic nature. So we end up shooting three days here, four days there over like a four month period. But with “John Wick,” I managed to spend a good two months here, all in all. And to be able to absorb the vibe of New York, and to get the accent as well, but just cause I think New York plays an extra character in the movie, it was beneficial for to me to be able to sort of get into that.
Does it present sort of an acting challenge for television, that sporadic nature?
It can. It can be tough sometimes, yeah. It can be tough to sort of keep it up. But, you know, I’ve been doing it for five going on six years, now. So for people coming on board and getting used to that, I think they can find it quite tough. But for me, I kind of got used to it. But, you know, the character’s ever changing, so it’s not like I’m just coming back every year and trying to do the same thing. But yeah, it’s interesting.
What is one project (television show, film) that you would love to be a part of or have been a part of?
“The Wire.” I would have loved to been a part of that, that project. That’s amazing. I was actually watching “The Wire” when I got the part in “Game of Thrones.” So, it was unreal for me to be a part of an HBO series, and one as good as “Game of Thrones.” But yeah I would have loved to have been in “The Wire.” That would’ve been great.
So what was it like working with the directors and the cast? Was there a lot of ideas being bounced off each other?
Sure. I mean, I don’t know what to compare it to. Each film is different. There was a tight script, and these guys knew what they wanted to do, but character-wise they also gave you a long leash. If you had some thoughts or some little details that you wanted to play with, they certainly were very open to it.
Your character in the film doesn’t have a whole lot of screen time, but I’m curious, do you find it difficult to create a full-fledged character in those few minutes?
Yeah, you know, it’s much more difficult to create a character when you have less screen time, but the challenge is something I really like, especially the character’s really well-written. You really get a sense of his backstory. You get a real sense that something really ominous is going to happen to him, because he just stuck his neck out for Keanu Reeve’s character, John Wick. And you can’t do that in this world. You can’t. So you know this guy’s got a lot of heart.
“John Wick” hits theaters on Oct. 24, 2014. Be sure to check it out.
Stephen Jones contributed reporting.